Tag: Fifth Amendment

Seize the Legislature

I’ve made it clear many times: asset forfeiture is one of the most vile things our federal and state governments do. This is the process by which law enforcement seizes people’s money, homes, cars and other assets and … well, sometimes that’s it. Sometimes they charge them with a crime … eventually. Some states have tried to reign it in, but the Feds have created an “equitable sharing” program in which law enforcement can bypass state regulations by having a “joint investigation” with the Feds. They turn over the money to the Feds, who take a cut and then give the rest back. The wonderful Institute for Justice calls this “policing for profit”.

If this sounds like a criminal enterprise it should. Entire sections of highway have now become revenue streams for law enforcement. And I’ll give you three guesses as to the skin color of the people this happens to the most often.

Earlier this month, California tried to pull the plug on this literal highway robbery. Yesterday, that effort collapsed:

Yesterday, California Senate Bill 443 went down in flames in the state’s Assembly. The bill, sponsored by Democrat Holly Mitchell in the Senate and Republican David Hadley in the Assembly, would have reformed the state’s asset forfeiture regulations to require that police and prosecutors actually convict citizens of crimes before seizing ownership of their assets to spend on themselves.

Imagine that. Almost as if no one should be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.

The bill originally passed overwhelmingly in the state Senate earlier in the year, but then police and prosecutors got wind of it and began a campaign of fearmongering against it, telling legislators it would threaten budgets and would cut law enforcement out of the federal asset forfeiture sharing program. The law had been stripped down so that the state would be able to continue participating in the federal program, but even that wasn’t enough. It didn’t even get close to passing the Assembly.

Here’s my proposal. The citizens of California should seize the assets of every legislator who voted against this bill under suspicion of corruption. After all, this is the body that once included Leland Yee, who has now pled guilty to racketeering charges that involved bribery, gun-running and money laundering. Under the rules of engagement that the legislature is clearly comfortable with, any legislator with a lot of money should be presumed guilty, his assets seized and onus put on him to prove his innocence.

Hey, fair is fair, assholes. If you’re going to treat the common citizen like walking law enforcement piggy banks, it’s time you ponied up too.

This Aggression Will Not Stand

Ah, the public schools:

A Batavia High School teacher’s fans are rallying to support him as he faces possible discipline for advising students of their Constitutional rights before taking a school survey on their behavior.

They’ve been collecting signatures on an online petition, passing the word on Facebook, sending letters to the school board, and planning to speak at Tuesday’s school board meeting.

Students and parents have praised his ability to interest reluctant students in history and current affairs.

Dryden, a social studies teacher, told some of his students April 18 that they had a 5th Amendment right to not incriminate themselves by answering questions on the survey, which had each student’s name printed on it.

The survey asked about drug, alcohol and tobacco use, and emotions, according to Brad Newkirk, chief academic officer.

The results were to be reviewed by school officials, including social workers, counselors and psychologists.

The survey was not a diagnostic tool, but a “screener” to figure out which students might need specific help, Newkirk said.

The school is considering a “letter of remedy”. This has the potential to result in any level of discipline, up to firing.

The school’s position, which is not completely unreasonable, is that this survey was not going to be shared with police but was going to be used to identify students with problems and Dryden may have interfered with students getting some needed counseling. Dryden’s position, however, is that writing your name on a piece of paper and saying you’ve used drugs or alcohol is just asking for legal trouble. Is it really that hard to imagine the path from “we’ll give you help if you want it” to “you’re going to get help, wether you want it or not” to “enjoy juvie, sucker”? And is not that unreasonable for a social studies teacher to use this an example of what the Fifth Amendment means?

This does seem like bit of an over-reaction by the school. There’s a part of me that wonders if the school’s problem isn’t so much that he interfered with the survey but that he taught them a lesson in their Fifth Amendment rights. School administrators love things like locker searches, drug tests and student searches. They have routinely chafed against the very modest legal requirement of “reasonable suspicion”. Politicians and “educators” at all levels aren’t terrifically fond of any of our liberties really (James Taranto recently wrote about his experiences with censorship in college).

If you teach student to exercise their fifth amendment rights, they might start escalating to thinking about their fourth and first amendement rights as well. They might even start wondering about — the horror — their second amendment rights! And we can’t have that.

(In case you’re wondering about the title of this post, check out the picture of Dryden at the linked article and tell me he doesn’t look like the Dude.)